The US Army has taught these 11 Principles of Leadership for over half a century, so I would call them pretty well tested. I started this series with an overview of the 11, then followed with with a detail of principles 1-3. Now we'll look at 4-7 and end with 8-11 in the next week.
Just in case you missed the last article on Leadership Principles 1 - 3, they are:
- Know Yourself and Seek Self Improvement
- Be Technically Proficient
- Seek Responsibility and Take Responsibility for Your Actions
Leadership Principle #4 - Make Sound and Timely Decisions
I am not the first to say this, but the worst decision you can make is to not make a decision. As a leader the responsibility sits squarely only your shoulders to make decisions. You can prepare and research and worry and fret, but you may never have all of the facts required in order to make the perfect decision. You can also gather so much information and spend so much time evaluating that you allow an opportunity to slip through your grasp because you would not make a decision. I am a big believer in trusting your instinct. When you couple your gut instinct with research and wise counsel, you should be able to make sound and timely decisions. But you must close that circle by actually making the decision.
I gave myself a 4 on this one.
Leadership Principle #5 - Set The Example
Leaders set the standards, tone, ethics and overall impression made on others via the example they themselves set. I feel as though I have tried to set the example in most parts of my life. I may fail at times, but I do attempt to pass this idea along to my kids and to the kids I have coached over the years, so I gave myself a 4 on this one. There is always room for improvement!
I gave myself a 5 on this one.
Leadership Principle #6 - Know Your Personnel and Look Out For Their Well Being
What does this mean to a business owner or a manager within a (any type) of business? First and foremost it means that you must ensure that you understand the strengths and weaknesses of your subordinates. Knowing their strengths and weaknesses allows you to ensure you have the "right people on the bus and that they are in the correct seats" (see Jim Collins' Good To Great). When you know your people and have them "in the correct seats" you are effectively looking out for their well being by ensuring they grow and thrive in the company. There are few things that can drag down a person (and those around them) like being in the wrong job.
I gave myself a 4 on this one.
Leadership Principle #7 - Keep Your Followers Informed
Have you ever been in a job or volunteered for something where you had absolutely no idea what was going on? It is not a good feeling and simply causes frustration. Since this is a list developed by the Army, let's use an Army analogy. Can you imaging what would happen if a Platoon Leader told his troops to get geared up and loaded into the back of their armored vehicle without any idea of where they were headed, how long they would be gone or the situations they may face? This is a recipe for disaster. The same is true for your business. If you don't communicate with your "followers" you will foster discontent and they will not know how to prepare for what is coming.
I would also add that you need to keep your leaders informed as well, if you have someone you report to. It may be a board of directors, an investor, partner, etc. But you should communicate up and down the chain.
I gave myself a 3 on this one. I need to do a better job of sharing information in a timely manner.
If you have not read article 1 and article two, take a few minutes to read them them take a few minutes and score yourself with the self evaluation sheet you downloaded on these 5 Leadership Principles to help narrow down where you need to invest some time in developing your own skills as a leader.